New South Wales only boast one NRL starting prop in their line-up but debutant James Tamou says he’s ready to be the ‘enforcer’ against Queensland next Wednesday.
Led by lock-cum-prop Paul Gallen, Blues coach Ricky Stuart has opted for a more mobile engine room to counter Queensland’s power game for State of Origin I in Melbourne. NSW have a front‑row rotation of Gallen, Tamou and Trent Merrin, who has mostly played off the bench for the Dragons this season. Stuart said that Ben Creagh will also be used as a prop.
In contrast, Queensland boast a front-row combination of Petero Civoniceva, Matthew Scott, David Shillington and Ben Hannant, who have 72 Tests between them. Second-rowers David Taylor and Matt Gillett join Shillington and Hannant on a bench that has a 33-kilogram advantage over their Origin counterparts.
But Tamou (pictured), who deputised for Scott in last month’s Test victory over New Zealand, says he knows he has to be the main aggressor for NSW.
“That’s what I love about rugby league, the contact,” Tamou told Big League. “I know being that enforcer out there, the team looks for that and if you pull off a big hit or a good run, they get a buzz off that and it brings the team into the game. I’m happy to do that for the team.”
Tamou, who has admitted to turning his back on New Zealand because of the lure of Origin, says he’ll have no problems putting a heavy hit on club-mates Scott and Johnathon Thurston.
“It’s a hard one because [Scott] is my team‑mate and you work with him every day but he’s a very competitive man and I want to follow in his footsteps,” Tamou said.
“I want to be the exact same as him, but I’m going to try to use it against him. He’s my buddy on and off the field for the Cowboys, but for Origin, it’s a whole different story. My mates are the ones beside me in the sky blue jumper and that’s who I’m going out there for.”
But the 23-year-old stopped short of using illegal tactics to reduce the impact of Queensland’s new No.6, referring to Dragon Matt Prior’s elbow to Thurston’s head in Round 9.
“That’s too much, even for me,” he said. “I want to go out there, be aggressive and try to rip some heads off, but that’s all controlled. People say they’ll rip some heads off but it’s in meaning. You don’t want to do that.
“The Matt Prior incident, that’s too much for me. I don’t want to be rubbed out of the game. I’ll go out there aggressively, but I’ve got to be smart about it.”